Max Barry is one of those rare writers – able to weave humour and a thick plot into high-paced action, and to do so consistently. Previously, he’d written Syrup, largely unheard of and unnoticed, and Jennifer Government, his “break out” novel that took branding to the extreme. Company, his latest, continues the fine tradition of corporate satire with serious plot.
Jones is a new graduate joining Zephyr Holdings – the reason for joining being the drop-dead-gorgeous receptionist who drives an Audi – but he doesn’t really know what Zephyr does, per se. And since there’s a hiring freeze due to budget restrictions, he’s being paid from the copy paper budget. He starts to ask questions that make his co-workers, Freddy the sales assistant who hasn’t been promoted in 5 years, and Holly the fitness freak, a little bit uncomfortable – they’re all thinking it, but no-one asks out loud, until Jones at least.
And then there’s a twist, about a third of the way in, that skews everything, and prevents me from writing any more. But let me provide an extract:
“First we had to cut out above-the-line advertising,” the communications manager says. “Then we cut advertising altogether. After that we were down to market research and PR. But lately, we don’t even do those.”
“Then what do you do?”
“Nothing. We don’t have the budget.”
“Nothing at all?”
“Not since June.” The communications manager winks. “Don’t tell anybody. So far, no one’s noticed.”
“Huh,” Holly says.
“Before then, we were really under the gun. We got warned on expenses three times in a month. But now everyone’s feeling really positive. Morale is way up.”
“But what do you do all day?”
“Oh, we’re still working. We’re working harder than ever. Every day we identify new ways to lower expenses. Just yesterday, we boarded up our office windows.”
“You have windows?” Holly cries.
“Had. Now they’re covered in cardboard.”
“Why would you do that?”
“Infrastructure Management bills for windows. Covering them up cut our overhead by 8 percent.”
I dunno; I found it hilarious :D
If you’ve ever worked in a big company, Company is chock full of things you’ll recognise, and occasionally think about yourself. Most excellent book all round :)